A lively discussion broke out on CNN today over whether or not Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck are the same. Howard Kurtz spelled out the difference between Olbermann and Beck, by saying about Olbermann’s program, “His MSNBC show, agree with it, disagree with it, was a very well-researched program.”
Here is the video from CNN:
Howard Kurtz said that Fox had asked Beck to tone it down, “But Roger Ailes told me some months ago that he asked Beck in a friendly way to tone things down.”
Amy Holmes tried to compare Glenn Beck to Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann, and Ed Schultz, “Sure. And you know what? Roger Ailes is the boss. And generally, you are supposed to do what the boss says. And if you don’t, then you don’t get to keep your show. But you can string together sound bite after sound bite from MSNBC of their primetime lineup. Ed Schultz; you have “Worst Person in the World” when Keith Olbermann was on. You have, as I said, Lawrence O’Donnell declaring himself to be a socialist, which he has every right to do, but it is extreme.”
Howard Kurtz brought up two huge differences between Olbermann and Beck, “Let me pick up on Amy’s point about MSNBC. Now, I don’t put Keith Olbermann in the same category as Beck at all. His MSNBC show, agree with it, disagree with it, was a very well-researched program. But he also became increasingly opinionated. He also clashed with his bosses. And he also left.”
David Zurawik tried to make the Jon Stewart argument that Glenn Beck and Olbermann are alike, “Howie, he was the guy who said — right after the episode I cited in October, he did the same thing Beck did. He said, give me all the dirt you have on — and on Roger Ailes, too. I mean, it was so personal. This is not what you’re doing on cable television. No. Let me say this in the middle of these two, because it’s true. And this is like, which carcinogen do you want in your water? Which one in the public? Look, Olbermann, all of the others on MSNBC, O’Donnell, they are just as bad in one way. “
Zurawik continued and shifted gears and said in one way Beck was worse than MSNBC and Olbermann, “But in another way, Beck was worse. Here’s how Beck was worse. Beck understood the fault lines in our sort of history and moral consciousness. And he went with the Nazi stuff. And when he tried to appropriate the moral authority of Martin Luther King with that rally, he went right out things that are important to groups like African-Americans and Jews, and he would offend you in your face and not care. Olbermann didn’t do that. I’ll say that for Olbermann.
Howard Kurtz jumped back into the discussion to point out the difference between Olbermann and Beck, “I have got to push back on this, though. You say that some of the people at MSNBC, just as bad. Now, they may be as opinionated, they may be as strident, they may occasionally be irresponsible. But they are not trafficking conspiracy theories, they’re not making things up.”
Bill Press pointed out that only Roger Ailes is to blame for the firing of Glenn Beck, “Wait. I just want to make it clear. OK? Roger Ailes fired Glenn Beck. You can’t blame MSNBC. You can’t blame Media Matters. You can’t blame Bill Press. We clashed as well. Roger Ailes knew he was toxic for that network. And you know what else? I’m telling you, I’ll bet you that the other hosts went to Roger Ailes and said you’ve got to get this loon off this air, he’s making us all look bad.”
The idea that Glenn Beck is just like MSNBC and Keith Olbermann is a falsehood that needs to be put down once and for all. There is nothing on MSNBC that compares to the outright fearmongering and misleading information that Beck spews on a nightly basis on Fox News. Keith Olbermann never went on the air and claimed that the Republicans were going to kill as all, and our lives were in jeopardy. Olbermann never turned his show into an old-time evangelist hour. Keith Olbermann did try to rely on facts whereas for Beck the facts were what he felt they should be that day.
The reason people often lump Olbermann and Beck together is because they both relied on a similar communications technique. Both of them tried to connect to their audience through emotion. Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck understand the power of an emotional argument. Olbermann’s Special Comments were emotional appeals. Glenn Beck’s Fox News program was built around emotion, but this is where the similarity ends.
As Howard Kurtz observed, Keith Olbermann’s emotional appeals, no matter how short-sighted they could be at times, were backed up with research and facts. Glenn Beck relied on interweaving emotional appealed designed to bring the viewer to his desired conclusion. Glenn Beck research appears to have been carried about by a group of over caffeinated dyslexic monkeys. The result was that Beck never backed up his points with complete facts. On the occasions that he does use facts, he normally uses half-truths, and never presents things in context. Beck is the master of the information fragment.
Unlike Olbermann, Beck was fired. Glenn did not decide to leave. Roger Ailes is booting his backside out the door. I think it is easy to compare Olbermann and Beck because of how their shows will have ended, but they are not the same.
Those who try to claim that they are the same are usually upset with the entire tone of our media, but for as exasperating as Keith Olbermann can be, he adds something of substance to the debate, whereas Glenn Beck looked to manipulate and divide for the purpose of personal financial enrichment.
Keith Olbermann cares deeply about the politics and what he sees as the condition of his country. I have never believed for a moment that Glenn Beck really cared. Beck is a two-bit comedian who found a character and struck it rich. For him political media appears seems like nothing more than a wealth generating enterprise.
On the surface Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck may appear similar, but a deeper look reveals two polar opposites that could not be more different if they tried.